Heinrich Friedrich Füger

Heilbronn 1751 - 1818 Vienna

Queen Semiramis

signiert am rechten unteren Bildrand: Füger pinx.1800

Oil on canvas, 112 x 89 cm, gilt frame in neoclassical style

Provenance:private collection, Hamburg – Kunst- und Musikalienhandlung Schreivogel, Vienna (1804)

This painting, highly estimated by its contemporaries, shows Füger at the peak of his artistic work. Being director of the Academy since 1795, he achieved a mature examination of neo-classical ideas after several attempts. Füger dealt with historical and mythological topics since his early times, topics in which women played a great role concerning social and political situations. Doing so, he created the male and the female part as counterparts of each other. In this case, Achill, grieving over Patroklus‘ death (painting unverifiable, mezzotint by Vincenz Kininger, 1802), represented Semiramis‘ pendant. Outer calmness and inner tension are keeping an instable balance. The main characters are detached from their surrounding in both paintings and challenging the viewer to feel with them and find a solution. This is Füger’s unique artistic intention, not to present a solution to the viewer, but make him/her think about his/her own moral position. He succeeds in portraying mimic and gesture in a quite reluctant way.

The best contemporary description was given by Heinrich Rudolf Füssli, clerk at the Viennese Academy: „The last finished historical painting depicts the Assyrian queen Semyramis sitting at a table, receiving the unexpected message, that the Babylonians revolt against her. A composition of four persons in half life size. The queen, combing her hair, receives the message from two of her court men, one of them a warrior; she is turning sidewards to them with a serious, fearless and majestic face, holding a comb in one hand and taking parts of her hair with the other hand; she seems to express that her hair will remain uncombed until the rebels have been punished.” (H. R. Füssli, Annalen der Bildenden Künste in den österreichischen Staaten, Wien, 1801, S. 83; analogous translation)

The painting was exhibited in 1804 in the fair of Leipzig and described in the „Journal des Luxus und der Moden“ (journal of luxury and styles, Juni 1804, S. 295):“A Semiramis by Füger…who could admire the face of the beautiful queen, her dignity her grace, the fright felicitously expressed, without wanting to have 150 Louis in his pocket, in order to call this adorable painting his own.“

Mezzotint after Füger‘s painting by Johann Peter Pichler, 1803 (85 x 61 cm)

Literature:

  1. H.R. Füssli, Annalen der bildenden Künste für die österreichischen Staaten, Wien 1801, S. 83 F. Boetticher, Malerwerke des 19. Jahrhunderts, Füger Gemälde Nr. 45 K. Wilczek, H. F. Füger, Diss. Wien, 1925, Werkverzeichnis 87) R. Keil, Heinrich Friedrich Füger, Nur wenigen ist es vergönnt das Licht der Wahrheit zu sehen, Vienna 2009, p. 105, p.348, Werkverzeichnis 467, Farbabb. 80 Price: on rerquest
  2. Boetticher, Malerwerke des 19. Jahrhunderts, Füger Gemälde Nr. 45
  3. Wilczek, H. F. Füger, Diss. Wien, 1925, Werkverzeichnis Nr. 87
  4. Keil, Heinrich Friedrich Füger, Nur wenigen ist es vergönnt das Licht der Wahrheit zu sehen, Wien 2009, S. 105, S. 348,WV 467, Farbabb.

 

Price: on request